Canada First Research Excellence Fund Administration Guide


Table of Contents

The Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) administers the Canada First Research Excellence Fund on behalf of the three agencies.

Note: For the purposes of this document, “agency” and “agencies” refers to one or all of the following three: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC); or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

This guide explains how to administer and use funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

A CFREF grant is awarded to an institution to support a large-scale strategic research initiative led by the institution, as opposed to a grant awarded to an individual researcher or researchers to support a research project or projects. CFREF helps Canadian postsecondary institutions excel globally in research areas that will create long-term economic advantages for Canada. This allows institutions to:

  • compete with the best in the world for talent, for partnership opportunities, and to make breakthrough discoveries;
  • seize emerging opportunities and strategically advance their greatest strengths on the global stage; and
  • implement large-scale, transformational and forward-thinking institutional strategies.

Unless otherwise specified in this guide, the policies governing CFREF funds are the same as those outlined in the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions, the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide (TAFAG) and in the policy sections on the agencies’ websites. This provision includes current policies, which may be amended from time to time, as well as policies that may be adopted by the agencies during the term of the CFREF funding.

Where the provisions of the CFREF Administration Guide and the TAFAG differ, the CFREF Administration Guide takes precedence. Where the CFREF Administration Guide does not provide guidance, the TAFAG can be applied. Where clarification is required, questions can be directed to TIPS by emailing information@cfref-apogee.gc.ca.


Accepting CFREF funding

Responsibilities and Accountability

Annual funding of CFREF grants

Use of CFREF funds

Reporting and Supporting Evidence

Administrative Matters


Accepting CFREF funding

Funding agreement

TIPS sends all notices of award to the primary institutional contact. For its part, the institution must confirm in writing, by providing the appropriate signatures on the CFREF funding agreement, that it:

  • accepts the award;
  • acknowledges the start date of the CFREF funding; and
  • accepts the requirement to comply with the administrative regulations as set out in the funding agreement and this guide.

Provided there are no other conditions attached to the funding, TIPS will begin payments at the earliest opportunity after it receives the signed funding agreement, subject to parliamentary appropriations.

Start date

Based on the timelines of any given competition, TIPS will determine the earliest and any other possible start dates for grants.

An institution may negotiate a delay in its start date. However, the funding must start within the fiscal year in which the grant is awarded.

Term of the funding

The term of a CFREF grant is seven years.

Subsequent funding

A CFREF grant is nonrenewable.

Successful applicants may submit an application in a subsequent CFREF competition to support the evolution of initiatives previously supported through CFREF, new initiatives or a combination of the two.


Responsibilities and accountability

Primary institutional contact

TIPS keeps institutions informed by sending CFREF information and updates to the primary institutional contact designated by the institution. It is the responsibility of the institution to ensure TIPS has current contact information. To update its contact information, an institution should contact TIPS by emailing information@cfref-apogee.gc.ca.

Roles and responsibilities

CFREF funding is awarded to eligible institutions. TIPS pays quarterly installments, subject to parliamentary appropriation of funds and the demonstrated need for funds.

The administration of funds granted by the agencies is carried out by the institution and the agency. Refer to the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions for more details on the administration of funds granted.

In accordance with federal laws and policies regarding grants, each year TIPS verifies the institution’s eligibility to continue to receive grants.

CFREF funds are administered through the eligible lead institution. The institution authorizes expenditures in accordance with agency and program policies and requirements, as outlined in the relevant agency guide on its website, or as stated as a condition of funding, and with an institution’s policies. The institution must open a separate account for the CFREF grant it receives, and must clearly record all payments made into and from the account, and group them by category.

Under a CFREF grant, the institution’s president, principal or rector (or other designated institutional official) typically authorizes expenditures from the grant account in accordance with program guidelines. The authorization of expenditures can be delegated by the institution’s president, principal or rector (or other designated institutional official) to an appropriate number of individuals. No one may initiate or authorize expenditures from a grant account without the institution’s delegated authority.

The institution must not disburse funds to support specific research activities until all necessary certification requirements, permits, licences and other approvals have been obtained for these activities, including those in respect of, but not limited to, research involving human subjects, human pluripotent stem cells, animals, biohazards, infectious agents, radioactive materials, controlled information, Aboriginal Peoples, research in the Canadian territories, and research with effects on the environment. In addition, any research involving the use of human pluripotent stem cells that have been derived from an embryonic source and/or will be transferred into humans or non-human animals must be reviewed by the Stem Cell Oversight Committee to ensure compliance with Chapter 12, Section F of Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans prior to commencing.

Administrative, personnel and accounting procedures must conform to the standards, practices and policies of the institution.

All subsequent installments are subject to parliamentary appropriations and the conditions that may be attached. The agencies and TIPS reserve the right to defer or suspend subsequent installments if the parliamentary appropriations are reduced or cancelled, or if the need for funds is not demonstrated.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

As a condition of funding, all institutions must maintain an up-to-date equity plan.

The Government of Canada is committed to excellence in research and research training and considers that achieving equity, diversity and inclusion within CFREF and the Canadian research enterprise more broadly is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research that is necessary to seize opportunities and to respond to global challenges to the benefit of Canadians.

The program is committed to the federal government’s goals of non-discrimination and employment equity. All institutions that accept CFREF funding are expected to make concerted efforts to ensure equitable representation of individuals from the four designated groups (FDGs)—women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal Peoples and members of visible minorities—for the work carried out under the CFREF grant, and to provide a supportive and inclusive workplace for all researchers and members of the research team.

CFREF defines equity as the removal of systemic barriers and the accommodation of differences so that all individuals have equal access to, and benefit from, the program. To do this, it is imperative that institutions embrace diversity, defined as differences in race, colour, place of origin, religion, immigrant status, Aboriginal status, ethnic origin, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and age. Appropriate measures should be put in place to ensure that there are no systemic barriers. Finally, the recognition and valuing of diversity and equity must be accompanied by concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of diverse populations, meaning individuals must feel valued, respected and supported. The institution must strive to put in place the right conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential without undue hardship.

All institutions receiving CFREF funding must ensure that their recruitment processes are transparent, open and equitable for all research and other personnel hired to work on the CFREF grant, including students and postdoctoral researchers. Sound equity, diversity and inclusion practices include ensuring that the institution accesses the largest possible pool of qualified researchers and other personnel, and allocates CFREF funds with equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in mind, without affecting the integrity of the funded initiative’s goals. All hiring must be consistent with the principles and safeguards embodied in the universities’ existing hiring practices (as described in any collective agreements or equivalent).

An institution’s equity plan outlines how career and training benefits derived from the opportunities associated with the CFREF initiative will be made available to individuals from the FDGs. The equity plan must include performance measures (including indicators and targets) and a self-monitoring and course-correction process. TIPS will monitor the adherence of institutions to their CFREF equity plans through annual reports and the midterm review process (undertaken in year 4 of the grant). The institution must be able to provide supporting documentation related to the implementation of the equity plan, such as:

  • a copy of its open announcements (job advertisements or announcements to faculty), including a statement regarding its commitment toward equity and the participation of members of the FDGs;
  • copies of relevant internal policies and guidelines (e.g., equity policies, tenure-track hiring practices/policies, collective agreements or equivalent);
  • membership details of the hiring committees (indication that the committees or individuals involved in the decision-making process had representation from the FDGs);
  • a description of training on equity, diversity and inclusion provided to individuals who participated in the process;
  • a description of the role of the equity officer or equivalent official;
  • a description of the strategy used to identify and actively recruit members of the FDGs;
  • evaluation criteria and assessment grids; and
  • consideration of equity within the governance of the CFREF initiative (membership of governance and steering committees, for example).

Dedicated research time

In hiring research personnel or faculty whose appointment is attributable to a CFREF grant and who have tenure or tenure-track equivalent positions, institutions are expected to provide such personnel and faculty all the support necessary to ensure the success of their work, including dedicated time for research (e.g., by reducing the teaching load or releasing the researcher from certain administrative duties). While CFREF does not stipulate the percentage of dedicated time to be provided, many institutions ensure that equivalent positions (such as endowed Chairs) are able to devote a minimum of 50 per cent of their work time to research.

Note: The cost of a teaching replacement is an eligible expense except while the researcher or faculty member is on leave.

CFREF-funded researchers in senior administrative positions

Some researchers are able to deliver research output at a level expected of a tenured position while also being in a senior administrative position. Accordingly, CFREF does not have a formal policy prohibiting senior research personnel from holding senior administrative positions and receiving CFREF research funding. However, in appropriate cases, it is the responsibility of the institution (in collaboration with the individual) to ensure that any individual participating in a CFREF-funded initiative who also holds a senior administrative position has sufficient time for research so that they can carry out their role in the funded program of research at a level normally expected for an equivalent tenured position.

Deviation from proposed activities and/or budget

All conditions specified in the CFREF funding agreement and relevant program requirements must be respected.

CFREF grants are awarded for a specific purpose and the recipient institution is expected to use the grant for the purpose stated and in accordance with CFREF policies and guidelines, as well as those of the institution.

The institution will make every effort to adhere to planned activities of the institutional and scientific strategies approved by the agencies. TIPS must approve major deviations in the approved strategies before the changes are implemented (e.g., the elimination of an objective or work package described in the application; the addition of an objective or work package not described in the application or a significant change, more than 5 percent, in the distribution of funding for the research activities with respect to their relevance to the mandates of the respective agencies). In those cases, the institution will provide TIPS, in writing, a description of any significant deviation and a justification for the deviation, as soon as possible, and before the changes are implemented.

Some latitude is allowed in adherence to planned expenditures; however, TIPS must approve in advance the reallocation of resources of more than 20 percent of the most recent planned expenditures provided by the institution (revised annually) for a budget item. In those cases, the institution will advise TIPS, in writing and as soon as possible, when the planned expenditures will foreseeably be changed.

Institutions must respect the 25 percent limit on the portion of grant funds allocated to indirect costs of research.

TIPS and the agencies bear no responsibility for expenditures beyond the amount in the grant account (see Over-expenditures).

Financial monitoring of accounts

Representatives of the agencies and TIPS will periodically review the institutions’ financial administration to:

  • assess whether institutions have the necessary financial and administrative tools to properly and effectively manage their CFREF grant;
  • review the effectiveness of procedures, systems and controls in place at the institution to ensure that the agencies’ and CFREF policies and requirements are followed and that the research funds are well managed;
  • review expenditures from the grant accounts to ensure that these have been made in accordance with the established policies and requirements and for the broad purpose intended; and
  • share and disseminate information on policies, requirements and expectations for financial accountability.

Non-compliance

Institutions are responsible for using CFREF funds in accordance with the policies of the agencies, including the TAFAG, and this guide. Institutions must also provide true, complete and accurate information on documentation for expenditures from CFREF grant accounts.
Using CFREF funds for purposes inconsistent with the policies of the agencies; misappropriating grant funds; contravening agency financial policies, namely the TAFAG and this guide; or providing incomplete, inaccurate or false information on documentation for expenditures from CFREF grant accounts, all constitute breaches of the agencies’ policies.

In cases where there is an allegation of a breach of agencies’ policies, or a confirmed breach, the relevant provisions of the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research will be applied.

Matters involving financial mismanagement, where there is evidence of fraud or other unlawful activity, are referred to the appropriate authorities as per the Treasury Board Directive on Losses of Money or Property.

Acknowledgement

Support for research provided by CFREF is an investment by Canadian taxpayers. The agencies’ accountability regarding the use of the funds includes informing the public about who receives the support, the type of research that will be conducted and how funds will be administered.

Institutions holding a CFREF grant are required to acknowledge the CFREF funding in all professional communications, publications arising from the supported research, in conference or congress materials, and on equipment and facilities purchased and/or developed with grant funds.

Please refer to the CFREF Public communication guidelines for institutions for more details.

In addition, institutions should make every effort to ensure that all CFREF-funded research personnel acknowledge CFREF support, as appropriate.

Intellectual property and patents

Refer to the TAFAG section on Intellectual Property/Patents for details on how to comply with these requirements.

Open access

Refer to the TAFAG and the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications for details on how to comply with this requirement.

Digital data management

The Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management outlines the agencies’ overarching expectations with regard to research data management, and the roles and responsibilities of researchers, research communities, research institutions and research funders in meeting these expectations. It does not include mandatory requirements. Rather, it aims to establish a common set of principles that will serve as the basis for the development of data management policy that the agencies will establish collectively or individually.

Archiving of research data

CFREF encourages institutions to follow SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving Policy as outlined in the TAFAG.

Ownership of collections and specimens

Refer to the TAFAG section on Ownership of Collections and Specimens for details on how to comply with these requirements.


Annual funding of CFREF grants

Communication of competition results

TIPS will provide the results to the designated primary institutional contact for the CFREF application.

Note: The above information is provided in the strictest confidence. TIPS does not publish or otherwise disclose details related to unsuccessful applications.

In addition, for successful CFREF applications only, TIPS will issue a news release and post relevant information on its website (e.g., the name of the institution, the amount awarded, the field of research and a summary of the research proposal for public release).

Over-expenditures

Refer to the TAFAG section on Over-expenditures for details on the responsibility of the institution.

Continuing eligibility

To comply with government policy, CFREF must confirm an institution’s continued eligibility before releasing future installments to the institution.

If an institution’s eligibility changes at any time during the term of a CFREF grant, the institution must contact TIPS immediately.

Extension period for use of funds beyond the grant period

The program permits an automatic phase-out period of one year at the end of the grant period. Institutions may make and pay new commitments during this extension period but not beyond.

If funds remain in the account at the end of the phase-out period, refer to the section on Residual balances.


Use of CFREF funds

Preamble

The following guidelines are to assist institutional representatives and delegates in their interpretation of the acceptable use of CFREF funds. The following lists are not exhaustive. Other types of costs may be justified in the context of the objectives and purpose of the program, including those that cannot be recovered from other sources. When making decisions about expenditures, institutional representatives and delegates are encouraged to communicate with their institutional contacts (e.g., financial officer, research grants officer). If an institution is unsure whether an expenditure is eligible, it should contact TIPS by emailing information@cfref-apogee.gc.ca.

Funds can be distributed to partner institutions only if they meet CFREF’s eligibility criteria. Private sector partners are expected to contribute cash or in-kind to the CFREF-funded initiatives and to self-fund their participation. Academic research institutions located outside Canada are expected to self-fund their participation or, where their expertise is required, they may receive compensation on a fee-for-service basis.

General principles

CFREF funds must contribute toward eligible expenses for direct and indirect costs of research that are directly related to, and necessary for, carrying out the approved institutional and scientific strategies.

CFREF funds must be used effectively and economically, and the expenses must be essential for the proposed activities for which the funds were awarded.

Contributions to shared expenses must be directly attributable to the funded institutional and research activities, and be accepted and authorized by the institutional representatives or delegates.

In the absence of a written CFREF or agency policy, the institutional policy is to be applied (e.g., per diem rates for travel). For areas covered by both an institutional policy and either a CFREF or an agency policy, the program requires compliance with the pertinent CFREF or agency policy.

Note: CFREF funding is excluded from the calculation of the Research Support Fund grant and the Canada Research Chairs allocation of recipient institutions.

Retroactive expenses

Institutions may begin incurring eligible expenses as of the start date specified in the CFREF funding agreement. Only recruitment costs and relocation expenses incurred between the date of the grant announcement on the CFREF website and the effective funding start date of the grant can be recovered retroactively.

Expenses must be charged to the grant account in the fiscal year the expense was incurred. Institutions are expected to cash-manage expenses over the course of the funding. Where the institution needs to spend more than what it has in its account, it can be reimbursed through CFREF funds received in subsequent installments or years.

Direct costs

Note: Some expenses listed below as ineligible direct costs of research may be eligible within the amount of expenses allowable for indirect costs of research.

Salary and benefits costs to:

  • recruit top researchers to the institution into a limited number of new faculty appointments attributable to a funded initiative; and
  • remunerate members of a research team assigned to a funded initiative (e.g., research technicians, research associates, postdoctoral researchers, students at all levels, clerks, administrators or research assistants).

Persons paid from a CFREF award are not considered to be program employees, scholars or fellows.

Institutional nondiscretionary benefits normally include long- and short-term disability insurance; life insurance; pension benefits; medical, vision and dental care benefits; and parental leave. Institutional nondiscretionary benefits must not contravene agency guidelines.

CFREF management believes that institutions should demonstrate their long-term commitment to the funded initiative by eventually paying the salary of researchers who are expected to conduct independent research. Consequently, faculty and researchers who are independent researchers and whose salaries are paid out of a CFREF grant will be eligible to apply to granting agency programs. Should their application be successful, grant funding will be awarded on the condition that their salary is paid from other sources (not granting agency funding) at the start of the grant. There will be no requirement to retroactively refund the CFREF grant account for previous salary payments.

CFREF funds can be used to support a scholarship or stipend for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students recruited to be part of the CFREF research team. These should not be named or branded as CFREF scholarships or awards (as a suggestion, they could be named or branded according to the institution, strategy and/or research area they support, but this is left to the discretion of the institution).

In cases where CFREF funds are used to cover the salaries of research and other personnel, TIPS expects the institution to provide for each individual’s employment security as it would for other comparable positions. As for general and merit wage increases, the institution must plan for employment security within the CFREF budget and distribute the resources in such a way that sufficient funds, as appropriate, are available over the course of the CFREF award for such increases.

Eligible expenses
  • salaries and actual costs of related federal, provincial and institutional nondiscretionary benefits (including bonuses or merit-based increases) for a limited number of new faculty appointments attributable to the grant;
  • salaries and nondiscretionary benefits of members of the research teams (students at all levels, postdoctoral researchers, research associates, technicians, clerks, administrators or research assistants—no minimums or maximums apply to stipends aside from those dictated by institutional policy);
  • in the case of universities, costs of teaching replacements for new faculty members appointed whose salary is paid from CFREF grant funds, including compensation to a department for one of its faculty members to teach one or more of the new faculty member’s courses;
  • in the case of colleges, limited costs for course load reduction for the replacement of any college faculty to support their involvement in the applied research initiatives attributable to the grant (up to $9,000 per course-load reduction per semester per faculty, or the equivalent of 0.1 full-time equivalent positions); and
  • stipends for visiting researchers, which can be for a period longer than 125 days, as long as it remains a temporary arrangement and does not constitute a multi-year appointment. The amount of the stipend is negotiable, but it should be reasonable and significantly less than what would constitute a faculty salary. A faculty member from an institution within Canada can receive a stipend as a visiting researcher without this affecting his or her eligibility to apply for and hold grants from the granting agencies.

Other types of eligible expenses

  • costs of professional and technical services;
  • consulting fees;
  • fees paid for the purpose of participant recruitment, such as modest incentives to consider participation (i.e., to establish a potential participant pool), where approved by a research ethics board;
  • fees paid to research participants, such as modest incentives for participation, where approved by a research ethics board;
  • subcontracting costs;
  • clerical salaries directly related to dissemination activities, including manuscript preparation;
  • honoraria for guest speakers; and
  • honoraria for expert advisors required for CFREF-related activities, such as peer review and other professional and technical services. An honorarium should be a reasonable amount. A faculty member from an institution within Canada can receive an honorarium without this affecting his or her eligibility to apply for and hold grants from the granting agencies.
Ineligible expenses
  • a research time stipend for a faculty member not recruited as a result of the grant;
  • the salary of a faculty member not recruited as a result of the grant;
  • the cost of a teaching replacement during the leave of a faculty member;
  • the cost of technical services from a company owned by a faculty member who is eligible to apply for funding from any one of the three federal research funding agencies;
  • death benefits, and any other discretionary benefits;
  • discretionary severance and separation packages; and
  • allocations toward an endowment fund.

Recruitment and relocation

Recruitment and relocation costs to:

  • recruit top researchers to the institution into a limited number of new faculty appointments attributable to a funded initiative; and
  • recruit members of a research team assigned to a funded initiative, when required (e.g., research technicians, research associates, postdoctoral researchers, students at all levels, clerks, administrators or research assistants).
Eligible expenses
  • recruitment costs for new faculty positions and members of the research teams assigned to the funded initiative;
  • relocation expenses, including travel costs up to the value of economy airfare for new faculty appointments and their immediate families, and for members of the research teams and their immediate families, as well as the cost of transporting the families’ household effects;
  • travel and subsistence (meals and accommodation) costs for new faculty and one accompanying individual for a four-day trip to arrange accommodations (rental or purchase) in advance of moving;
  • travel and subsistence (meals and accommodation) costs for members of the research teams and one accompanying individual per member, for a four-day trip to arrange accommodations (rental or purchase) in advance of moving; and
  • food and accommodation costs for new faculty and members of the research teams and their families during their travel to the city of the host institution, if they drive instead of fly.

These expenses can be recovered retroactively.

Ineligible expenses
  • immigration-related fees, such as for a work permit or temporary residence in Canada.

Travel and subsistence

Travel and subsistence costs (meals and accommodation) attributable to the funded initiatives include reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for field work, research conferences, collaborative trips and historical research for faculty, research personnel, students, visiting researchers, and expert advisors.

Eligible expenses
  • travel and subsistence costs (meals and accommodation) for faculty, research personnel, students, visiting researchers and expert advisors;
  • air travel, claimed at the lowest rate available and not to exceed full economy fare;
  • travel cancellation insurance and seat reservation charges;
  • travel health insurance for faculty and any members of the research team who do not receive any such benefits from their institution and/or other sources;
  • safety-related expenses for field work, such as protective gear, immunizations, etc.;
  • entry visa fees (for faculty and/or members of the research team) when required for the purpose of research;
  • travel and accommodation expenses for speakers invited to conferences and workshops; and
  • child-care expenses while a member of the faculty or the research team assigned to the initiative is travelling and is a nursing mother or single parent, with:
    • the eligible costs for a single parent being limited to overnight childcare costs incurred while the parent is travelling; and
    • the eligible costs for a nursing mother travelling with a child being limited to the customary cost of child care and airfare if applicable. If travelling with a caregiver, travel and accommodation costs can be claimed in lieu of and up to the equivalent of childcare costs.
Ineligible expenses
  • commuting costs of faculty and members of the research team between their residence and place of employment, or between two places of employment;
  • passport and immigration fees;
  • costs associated with thesis examination and defence, including external examiner costs; and
  • reimbursement for airfare purchased using personal frequent flyer points programs.

Sabbatical and research leaves

Eligible expenses
  • costs related to a vehicle necessary for field work (with prior institutional approval; the vehicle must be licensed and insured during the sabbatical period);
  • direct research expenses, including research assistance, bench fees and field work expenses, including travel and accommodation, when supported by appropriate documentation;
  • transportation costs to move research equipment or material to and from the sabbatical location;
  • travel costs to attend conferences; and
  • costs of travel between the home institution and the sabbatical location, limited to one return trip ticket, except in unusual circumstances.
Ineligible expenses
  • costs of transporting research personnel to and from a faculty member’s sabbatical location for supervisory or academic purposes;
  • costs of transporting a faculty member to the home institution for supervisory or academic purposes;
  • living expenses (meals and accommodation costs); and
  • travel costs of a faculty member’s family or a research team member from their home institution to the sabbatical location.

Equipment and supplies

For computers and electronic communications, see the section on Computers and electronic communications.

Eligible expenses
  • costs of acquiring, operating and maintaining research equipment, research vehicles and other resources required for research (note that these expenses cannot duplicate support already provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and that only small equipment (valued at $300,000 or less) may be purchased with CFREF funds; however, the program may make exceptions to the latter, on a case-by-case basis, if the institution provides a satisfactory justification addressing both (a) the critical and urgent need for the equipment for the research initiative; and (b) the reason why the equipment cannot be funded through other sources, such as the CFI);
  • user fees to support access by Canadian researchers to specialized equipment;
  • travel costs to visit manufacturers to make major equipment purchases;
  • transportation costs for purchased equipment;
  • extended warranties for equipment;
  • brokerage and customs charges for the importation of equipment and supplies; and
  • costs of training staff to use equipment or a specialized facility.
Ineligible expenses
  • capital expenditures, such as for new buildings and major research facilities;
  • research infrastructure operating costs that are already supported by the CFI;
  • insurance costs for equipment and research vehicles;
  • supplies from a company owned by a faculty member who is eligible to apply for funding from any one of the three federal research funding agencies; and
  • costs for the renovation, moving or rental of laboratories or supporting facilities (these are eligible within the amount allowable for the indirect costs of research).

Computers and electronic communications

Eligible expenses
  • computers, tablets, modems, emerging technology, and other hardware and/or specialized software required for the research not normally provided by the institution, and with adequate justification establishing the need in relation to the funded research;
  • cellular phones, smartphones or other electronic devices, when they are necessary for research purposes (e.g., data collection), and/or for personnel safety reasons and with adequate justification; and
  • monthly plan fees for electronic devices, when being used for research purposes (e.g., data collection) and/or personal safety reasons only.
Ineligible expenses
  • standard monthly connection or rental costs of telephones;
  • connection or installation of lines (telephone or other links);
  • voice mail;
  • library acquisitions, computer and other information services provided to all members of an institution; and
  • home Internet costs.

Dissemination of research results and networking

Eligible expenses
  • costs of developing web-based information, including website maintenance fees;
  • costs associated with the dissemination of findings (through traditional avenues, as well as videos, CD-ROMs, USB keys, etc.);
  • page charges for articles published, including costs associated with ensuring open access to the findings (e.g., costs of publishing in an open access journal or of making a journal article open access);
  • costs of preparing a research manuscript for publication;
  • translation costs associated with dissemination of findings; and
  • costs of holding a workshop or seminar, the activities of which relate directly to the funded research (including nonalcoholic refreshments and meal costs).

Services and miscellaneous expenses

Eligible expenses
  • recruiting costs for research personnel, such as advertising and airfare for candidates, etc.;
  • seed funding to conduct peer-reviewed competitions to engage and support new cutting-edge ideas aligned with the scientific strategy (as long as seed funding does not replace or displace the funding that is available through the granting agencies’ regular programming);
  • costs for safe disposal of waste;
  • costs for the purchase of books or periodicals, specialized office supplies, computing equipment, and information services not formally provided by the institution to all its academic and research staff;
  • costs involved in providing personnel with professional training and/or development in novel techniques required for the conduct of the research initiative;
  • specialized courses with adequate justification;
  • hospitality costs (nonalcoholic refreshments or meals) for networking purposes in the context of formal courtesy between the members of the research team and guest researchers, and research-related activities in the context of assemblies that facilitate and contribute to the achievement of the research objectives (e.g., meetings with partners, stakeholders, guest researchers);
  • costs of membership in professional associations or scientific societies if necessary for the funded initiative; and
  • monthly parking fees for vehicles specifically required for field work only for months when field work was conducted.
Ineligible expenses
  • costs of alcohol;
  • costs of entertainment, hospitality and gifts (other than those specified above), such as regular interactions with colleagues from the institution and personnel meetings;
  • costs related to staff awards and recognition;
  • education-related costs such as thesis preparation, tuition and course fees, leading up to a degree;
  • costs related to professional training or development, such as computer and language training;
  • costs involved in the preparation of teaching materials;
  • insurance costs for buildings, equipment or research vehicles;
  • costs associated with regulatory compliance, including ethical review, biohazard or radiation safety, environmental assessments, or provincial or municipal regulations and bylaws;
  • monthly parking fees for vehicles, unless specifically required for field work;
  • sales taxes to which an exemption or a rebate applies;
  • costs of regular clothing;
  • patent filing expenses; and
  • costs of moving a laboratory (see Indirect costs, next).

Indirect costs

Institutions may use a portion of the CFREF funds to contribute toward the indirect costs of supporting CFREF research activities; some exceptions may apply.

A total allowable amount not exceeding 25 percent of the total grant amount can be used for the indirect costs of the CFREF-funded research. These indirect costs must be attributable to the specific research initiatives related to the CFREF grant, and not for general overhead and administration costs of the institution as a whole. Eligible indirect cost expenses under CFREF are the same as eligible and ineligible expenditures outlined on the Research Support Fund website.

Costs for the renovation, moving or rental of laboratories and supporting facilities are eligible as an indirect cost of research within the 25 percent limit.


Reporting and supporting evidence

CFREF reporting requirements

Annual progress reports

Institutions must submit an annual progress report through an online survey tool (Voxco) by the deadline stated on the Forms page. The program will email the link and password for the report to the institutional contacts indicated in each institution’s application.

The annual progress report will summarize the CFREF-related activities undertaken over the previous fiscal year (including a financial report), and present how the institution is progressing toward meeting its objectives as set out in its performance measurement plan (PMP), as well as its equity plan. The report should cover the period from April 1 to March 31 for each year.

The PMP will include baseline data for each indicator tied to an expected outcome or impact, as well as targets to be achieved at the various milestones. For each indicator, the source of the data is to be provided. The PMP will also describe the processes used to monitor performance over the course of the funding, and to make course corrections as necessary. The PMP may be amended from time to time, to ensure that the indicators used to monitor progress remain relevant and accurate, and continue to reflect the range of outcomes expected from the funding. Changes to the PMP may be initiated by either the institution or TIPS, and must be approved by both. Requests for amendments to the PMP must be submitted in writing to the other party, and both parties must approve the amendment before the next reporting exercise (annual progress report or midterm report).

Annual progress reports may discuss a small number of reasonable and common key indicators that could be used for ongoing monitoring of the program as a whole and to effectively support the needs of program evaluations. Reports will also identify other sources of funding to support the CFREF initiative, including funding provided by the lead institution and secured partners (both cash and in-kind contributions) to support CFREF activities.

The institution is responsible for ensuring that the annual progress report is submitted to TIPS no later than the stated deadline. Failure to submit this report will result in the suspension of payments until the report has been received.

By June 30 each year, institutions must also submit to TIPS the following annual financial reports associated with the CFREF grant using the CFREF report templates provided:

  • an annual statement of account for the CFREF grant that details how the grant funds were spent and lists all outstanding commitments;
  • revised budget projections and up-to-date cash flow requirements for the remainder of the funding period; and
  • sign-off from the institutional representative or delegate.

TIPS will provide institutions with the annual progress report template and accompanying financial reporting templates.

TIPS will review the annual progress report, including financial reports submitted, in order to ensure that the activities of the award are progressing satisfactorily and that the activities comply with CFREF policies, terms and conditions, and the guidelines as set out in this guide. In the case of unsatisfactory progress or non-compliance, TIPS may elect not to approve the release of future installments of funding. Further, if so directed by the CFREF Steering Committee, TIPS will have the right to terminate the funding, as described in Termination of CFREF funding.

Midterm report and review

Institutions must submit a midterm report at the mid-point of the funding period, which summarizes the CFREF-related activities over the first half of the award and also presents how the institution is progressing toward meeting its objectives as set out in its PMP and equity plan.

The institution is responsible for ensuring that the midterm report is submitted to TIPS by the deadline established. Failure to submit this report on time will be treated as serious and could result in the suspension of future payments.

TIPS will provide the midterm report template and accompanying forms to the institution.

TIPS will conduct an assessment of progress at midterm, on the basis of the midterm report submitted by the institution and against the milestones identified in the PMP. This assessment may involve the participation of scientific or other experts, or various adjudication bodies, at the CFREF Steering Committee’s discretion.

If the results of the midterm progress assessment are unsatisfactory, the CFREF Steering Committee has the option to direct TIPS to terminate the funding, as described in Termination of CFREF funding.

If either the review of annual progress reports or the assessment of progress at midterm determines that progress is unsatisfactory, TIPS also reserves the right to designate a staff member to participate, as an observer, in any or all meetings of any committees established by the institution for the ongoing governance of the funded initiative. As required, the designated TIPS staff member will provide these committees with clarification on relevant information related to CFREF, its objectives and its expectations. In such a case, these committees must give TIPS the same notice as provided to other committee members in advance of each meeting and provide copies of the relevant documentation at least seven business days before the scheduled meeting date.

Supporting evidence

For each CFREF grant, the institution must keep complete and accurate records on the use of the program funding, including verifiable audit trails with complete supporting documentation for each transaction, for a minimum of seven years.

The institution is responsible for authorizing expenditures from the grant account in accordance with the agencies’ requirements, grant conditions, and policies of the institution and CFREF. No other party may initiate or authorize expenditures from an account without the institution’s written delegated authority. All claims must have the institutional representative’s or delegate’s signature. The signatures certify that:

  • all expenditures on the claim are for the purpose for which the grant was awarded;
  • all expenditures on the claim are eligible expenses;
  • all goods and/or services have been received;
  • the charges included have not been claimed for reimbursement from other sources; and
  • reimbursements for expenditures received from other sources or institutions have been disclosed.

Supporting documentation must be retained for all expenditures charged to the grant account. Such documentation includes:

  • salaries or stipends paid to CFREF research and other personnel, including students and postdoctoral researchers:
    • signed records regarding personnel paid from grant funds, including names, categories, salary levels, affiliation with the CFREF-funded initiative;
    • length of time supported in each case; and
    • details of employee benefits charged and relevant calculations.
  • equipment and supplies:
    • supplier invoices indicating details of purchases; and
    • prices paid.
  • internal expense allocations or shared expenditures:
    • documentation indicating the exact charges made to the account;
    • the method of calculation or attribution; and
    • the institution’s authorization for those charges made to the account.
  • hospitality for networking and research-related activities:
    • the date(s) of the event(s);
    • number of participants;
    • purpose of the event(s); and
    • counter signature by the department head or dean for hospitality expenses claimed by research or other personnel.
  • incentives paid for research recruitment and participation:
    • supplier invoices indicating details of incentive purchases;
    • the application to a research ethics board detailing the incentive plan (method of distribution, value of incentives, number of people receiving incentive);
    • the research ethics board approval of the incentive; and
    • proof of payment of incentives (e.g., signed receipts, coded list of recipients, attestation of researcher and/or others involved in incentive payment).

Individuals claiming travel-related expenses from a grant must prepare a separate claim for each trip. These travel expense claims must also conform to the standard travel policies and procedures of the institution. For all claimants, their affiliation with the CFREF-funded initiative must be specified. For each traveller, the travel expense claim must be signed by an authorized institutional representative or delegate.

Travel expense claims must include the following information:

  • purpose of trip, including the link to the funded research;
  • dates and destinations (person or location visited);
  • official supporting documentation (e.g., prospectus or program, indicating the dates of conferences and workshops);
  • details of daily claims for expenditures relating to those visits;
  • details of any vehicle used;
  • original receipts, such as hotel invoices and car rental agreements (credit cards slips are not valid receipts); and
  • original air travel ticket receipts and boarding passes (if available) or any other evidence that supports travel expenses claimed (e.g., a written attestation from the traveller).

Administrative matters

Transfer of grant funds to a new eligible partner institution

To add a new eligible partner institution to a CFREF grant (to allow the transfer of funds to that partner), TIPS requires the following information:

  • a signed Partner Signature Page from the new partner institution;
  • the total estimated amount to be transferred to the partner, as well as a breakdown by year;
  • a brief description (maximum two pages) of the work to be undertaken by the new partner and how it supports the CFREF-funded initiative; and
  • an updated version of Appendix A: List of Partners (of the CFREF funding agreement) for Category 1 only, to reflect the new eligible partner(s) and the amount to be transferred.

Ownership of items purchased with CFREF funds

All items purchased with CFREF funds belong to the institution and not to an individual researcher, unless TIPS agrees otherwise in writing, or unless doing so would be contrary to a legislated requirement. As owner, the institution is responsible for ensuring that the items are used to support CFREF activities.

For the agencies’ policy on ownership of equipment and facilities, as well as the responsibilities of the institution with regard to equipment and facilities, please consult the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions.

Deferral of installments or payments

Government policy states that agencies cannot pay installments/annual commitments in advance of need; they can provide funds only to correspond with the cash flow requirements of the CFREF-funded initiatives. If the institution has a buildup of funds in the grant account due to a slowdown or delay in the activities (for example, delays related to construction or renovations, international partnerships, or recruitment/ hiring) and believes that the scheduled installment will not be needed at that time, the institution should request a deferral of the next CFREF installment.

Deferring installments does not necessarily adversely affect a midterm review or the review of another CFREF application submitted by an institution (if applicable), but instead can demonstrate good fiscal management of the grant funds.

TIPS may defer, or even hold back, an institution’s next installment if, in its sole discretion, it has judged that the institution’s buildup of funds in the grant account(s) has not been properly justified, that the need for funds has not been demonstrated, or that issues have been identified during tenure of the grant.

Termination of CFREF funding

An institution may choose to terminate its CFREF funding early. CFREF funding can also be terminated as a result of non-compliance by the institution with the program terms and conditions or an assessment of unsatisfactory progress at the midterm review.

Termination by the institution

When CFREF funding is terminated by the institution, the institution must promptly notify TIPS, which will, in turn, advise the appropriate agency’s finance division. A six-month phase-out period may be applicable in these cases, subject to TIPS approval and provided the proposed termination date is more than six months before the end date of the CFREF grant.

The institution must submit the following documents by email or mail to TIPS:

  • a letter stating the date and reason for termination;
  • a detailed list of outstanding commitments made against the CFREF grant prior to termination, including employment contracts/agreements for all CFREF research and other personnel, using Form 303: Outstanding Commitments; and
  • a final statement of account using the CFREF template provided.

Termination by TIPS

When CFREF funding is terminated by TIPS, the institution will be promptly notified by TIPS. In turn, TIPS will also promptly advise the appropriate agency’s finance division.

Depending on the circumstances, a six-month phase-out period may be considered, provided the termination date is more than six months before the end date of the CFREF grant.

The institution must promptly submit the following documents by email or mail to TIPS:

  • an updated progress report for work undertaken during the current fiscal year;
  • a detailed list of outstanding commitments made against the CFREF grant prior to termination, including employment contracts/agreements for all CFREF research and other personnel, using Form 303: Outstanding Commitments; and
  • a final statement of account using the CFREF template provided.

Paid maternity and parental leave for students and postdoctoral researchers

CFREF funds may be used to provide a maternity or parental leave supplement, within six months following a child’s birth or adoption, to students and postdoctoral researchers who are paid out of a CFREF grant who are the primary caregiver for a child.

CFREF does not provide additional funds beyond the original value of the grant for this expenditure.

The supplement will be paid to students and researchers based on their current salary/stipend for up to six months. If both parents are supported by grant funds, each parent may take a portion of the leave for a combined maximum of six months. The supplement will be prorated if the student or postdoctoral researcher is being trained in research on a part-time basis.

Students and postdoctoral fellows who are eligible for employment insurance or other maternity and parental leave supplements from other sources do not qualify for these paid maternity or parental leaves.

Residual balances

Any residual funds may be transferred to the next fiscal year, but not beyond the allowable extension or phase-out period following the end of the grant period.

CFREF funds remaining after any allowable extension or phase-out period must be returned to the finance division of SSHRC by cheque (addressed to “Receiver General”), which will be credited to the appropriate agency for refund to the federal government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Residual CFREF funds cannot be transferred into the institution’s General Research Fund.